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Dreamforce: One marketer’s perspective

5 takeaways from Dreamforce 2015

Sean Dempsey | October 1, 2015

At Dreamforce 2015, Salesforce.com's annual conference in San Francisco, I witnessed a true renaissance in marketing.

You might be wondering what a marketer‎ was doing at a cloud-based SaaS conference, dubbed the Super Bowl of Software, that had 175,000 system admins, developers, system integrators, and app partners in attendance. Here’s why: Salesforce will revolutionize marketing as we know it.

Years ago, I had never heard of Salesforce.com, but soon I was using it to enable our agency's entire sales and internal marketing departments. Historically, Salesforce has been largely known as a B2B sales and service platform. However, Salesforce is actually one of the most flexible sales tools out there—supporting everything from small businesses to the largest enterprise. And in the 16 years since its inception, Salesforce not only predicted, but has delivered on and is now riding the wave of, the cloud revolution. Recently, it’s also emerged as a formidable B2C tool.

I left San Francisco convinced that Salesforce will change the face of marketing. Here are 5 key takeaways from this year's Dreamforce event, through the eyes of this marketer.

1. Customer-centricity

Becoming a customer-centric organization is not a new notion. Flip through the annual reports of any large organization, from banks to telcos to large retailers, and you'll see similar declarations of customer-centricity. Delivering on that, however, is not that easy.

Org structures, P&Ls, and silo’d goals drive different behaviours. Some organizations have been adopting NPS (Net Promoter Score) as a core metric of success across the organization; while others are appointing Chief Customer Officers; while still others are creating omnichannel teams that cut across internal silos and acknowledge that the customer doesn't care that their purchase online, interaction with a Facebook page, and in-store experience are owned by completely different teams within an organization, sometimes at odds with each other, in the fight for their individual goals.

Delivery of a single-view of the customer will, and is, driving change. After years of being talked about, that single-view in a single platform—Salesforce's Customer Success Platform—is now a reality, and that makes the marketing world very, very exciting.

2. A system of engagement

I have experienced firsthand the challenge of introducing yet another platform into a CIO's existing ecosystem. The promise of a CRM/loyalty/marketing platform is typically an easier sell to the CMO pyramid, but it can become a threat to the CIO's world.

At Dreamforce, Salesforce talked onstage about Salesforce as a CRM being at the centre of the ecosystem (displacing the ERP at the hub of the spokes), and calling it the System of Engagement, a complement to the System of Record, and the source of truth for all of a customer's interactions with a brand. And in this new customer-centric world, that makes a ton of sense.

While Salesforce needs to get past its legacy perception as a B2B or sales-team enablement tool, the chance that there is some piece of Salesforce in an organization (whether powering a 20-person sales team or an entire customer service organization) is pretty high. Maybe expanding its impact and capabilities as an organization's central platform isn't such a difficult thing to imagine.

3. If this, then that

This marketer's dream is that of mass-personalization, targeting a segment of as few as one, with timely and relevant communications that drive measurable behavioural change.

To accomplish this, you need a single view of your customers, triggers based on their current activity, the ability to customize business rules and offers, and the communication channels to serve up those offers. After assembling recent acquisitions of ExactTarget (email), Radian6 (social listening), and Buddy ‎Media (social posting) into its Marketing Cloud product, Salesforce now has a very impressive integrated marketing platform. It can take nearly any input—including IoT sensors, beacons, email opens, website browses, etc.—and any output (email, SMS, app notifications, targeted Facebook ads, etc.), and easily configure campaigns and customer journeys through a drag-and-drop interface.

Finally—with the ability to action if-this-then-that logic on a single platform, with pre-configured (in/out) integrations right out of the box (in the cloud, actually)—the future is here!

4. Enable a customer journey

In the transition from product-driven to customer-driven, the ability for organizations to understand and map out the customers' journey with the brand is essential.

Though the names of each stage of the journey are a little different for every brand, they typically flow from Awareness to Acquisition, Engagement, and Retention. The new Marketing Cloud product showcased at Dreamforce works just like a marketing team or agency works: serving up a digital whiteboard to map out your customer journey. The exciting part is that you can build out digital triggers in that journey which allow you to ingest data, apply business rules, and serve up targeted offers or messages—real marketing automation that allows you to influence and steer your customers through a more beneficial journey, while you sleep.

Big brands like Mattel, Sephora, OpenTable, Design Within Reach, and Coca-Cola were all at Dreamforce showcasing how they did just that, and Slalom has some great case studies on Marketing Cloud work that we've done with major retail clients.

5. The new agency ecosystem (or personalization is a content-hungry beast)

The media has been reporting that advertising is dead for years. It's a great headline to sell magazines and to fish for click-throughs (which is a little ironic), but it’s far too broad.

What is dead is running digital campaigns only to collect and purge customer data at the end of the campaign. (Think: every on-case beer campaign that gives away an incredible trip experience.) Also dead is sending the same offer email to your entire email database, and then doing it again six days a week—every week, every year.

Personalization is a content-hungry beast, and as marketers, it’s our job to feed that beast. I hope that future marketers will be more interested in A/B-tested copy and art that instigates measurable, incremental sales than they have been about winning a Cannes Golden Lion for best cinematography for that TV spot shot with that hand-model in Spain.

I'm excited to have joined this world of strategy and technology. And I'm excited to start to bridge the gap between agencies and consultants, brand and data, CMOs and CIOs, and brands and their customers. I believe that there is a place for a professional services firm in the Canadian marketplace that is more data-driven than traditional agencies, and more brand-focused than traditional consulting firms. In fact, that's why I decided to help launch Slalom in Canada. I am full of hope and excitement (and Salesforce Kool-Aid).

And I've just booked my hotel room for next year's Dreamforce.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

Sean Dempsey Slalom Consulting

Sean Dempsey is a founding member of the Slalom Canada team and leader of the Customer Engagement practice in Toronto. A big-brand retail and CPG marketer for the past 10 years, Sean wrote his first line of code at age 7 and built his first CRM at 16. Follow Sean on Twitter: @iamdempsey.


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